Taiwan will not reopen service pact talks

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Chinese leaders send condolences to S. Korea over shipwreck

By Xiong Ping

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday of April 17 extended condolences to their respective South Korean counterparts over a ferry accident, which has left a significant number of people dead or missing.

“I have learned with profound sorrow of the severe accident of your country’s passenger ship ‘Sewol’, which has left a significant number of people dead or missing, including many young students in particular, ” Xi said in a message to South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Xi, on behalf of the Chinese government and people and in his own name, mourned the dead and sent condolences to those injured and to the bereaved families.

He said that he pays great attention to this accident and that China is willing to provide support and assistance to South Korea.

“The Chinese people and the South Korean people enjoy profound friendship,” Xi said.

Premier Li also sent a message of condolences on Thursday to his South Korean counterpart, Chung Hong-won, over the tragedy.

“Sewol” carrying 475 people, mostly high-school students, capsized off South Korea’s southwest coast Wednesday, leaving at least nine people dead and 287 others missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Sadness expressed over ROK ship accident

By Lü Qiuping and Zhang Xudong

Ship worker Liu Jun has mixed feelings toward the ocean. It offers mystery, but also engulfs lives.

While search efforts are continuing for the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 with 239 people on board that was believed to have ended in the Indian Ocean more than a month ago, a passenger ship carrying 475 people capsized in waters off the southwest coast of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Wednesday of April 16.

“Human beings are so tiny and powerless,” said Liu, chief engineer of China’s scientific expedition vessel “Xiangyanghong 09″. “May the deceased rest in peace, and the alive pull together and carry on.”

At least nine people have died and 287 others are still missing after “Sewol” capsized and sank off Jindo Island, near the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday at a regular press briefing that China was saddened by the accident, adding that Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday expressed his sympathy to his ROK counterpart Yun Byung-se and promised to provide help for search and rescue efforts whenever needed.

According to the ROK coast guard department, a Chinese vehicle was on board and two Chinese nationals were possibly on the ship and are believed to be missing, Hua said.

The accident has concerned not only the government, but also the Chinese public.

Li Shun, a resident in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, said he was deeply moved when a news report said a missing student onboard had sent a text message to his mother, which read, “Mom, in case I never have a chance to say this, I love you.”

“The mother must be devastated. I sincerely hope the missing child is safe and sound,” he said.

Shandong is the nearest Chinese province from the ROK. Thousands of Korean enterprises are located in its coastal city of Qingdao.

“We don’t know what to say. Just as you (Chinese) are concerned about the whereabouts of MH370 with Chinese people onboard, we are also very worried about our compatriots,” said a Korean company manager, who asked not to be named.

On the Internet, netizens lit virtual kindles to pray for the missing victims, most of whom were high school students.

Maritime authorities in Shandong on Thursday morning held a video conference, ordering relevant departments to learn a lesson from the accident and ensure the safety of passenger shipping services.

Yuan Zongxiang, chief of Shandong Maritime Safety Administration, said with the Labor Day holiday approaching, the province, with an annual shipping capacity of 30 million passengers, will soon enter its busiest period of the year.

To make full preparations, the administration has started a three-week passenger ship safety inspection campaign. “It is always necessary to learn lessons,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China asks ROK to find missing citizens in ship accident

By Zhang Yi

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday of April 17 asked the Republic of Korea (ROK) to check the information of missing Chinese citizens in yesterday’s ship disaster and find them as soon as possible.

The Chinese embassy in the ROK learned that two Chinese citizens were on board a South Korean passenger ship, which capsized in waters off South Korea’s southwest coast Wednesday, leaving at least nine people dead and 287 others still unaccounted for.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing that China was saddened by the accident, adding that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday expressed his sympathy to his ROK counterpart Yun Byung-se and promised to provide help for search and rescue work whenever needed.

According to the latest information from the ROK coast guard department, a Chinese vehicle was on board and the department speculated that two Chinese nationals were also on the ship and are believed to be missing, Hua said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and its relevant overseas departments have launched an emergency mechanism, Hua said. The Chinese Consulate General in Kwangju arrived at the rescue scene and asked the ROK side to make all-out efforts to rescue the victims, Hua added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China urges Japan to mend strained ties: FM spokesperson

By Xiong Zhengyan

China on Thursday of April 17 urged Japanese leaders to correct mistakes with actions so as to create conditions for mending the strained relations, according to a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

“The current serious difficulties in China-Japan relations have resulted from Japanese leaders’ extremely wrong actions on the Diaoyu Islands and history. The key is in Japan’s hand,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing.

Hua made the remarks when asked to comment on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s latest speech stressing the importance of Japan’s relations with China.

Hua said she hasn’t read the report.

She underscored China’s commitment to developing mutually beneficial bilateral relations based on four China-Japan political documents, noting that will benefit people of the two countries and peaceful development in the region.

“We urge Japan to listen to the just voice, take practical actions to correct mistakes, and create conditions to restore bilateral relations,” Hua said. She called on people with vision to make positive efforts to enhance mutual understanding between China and Japan.

China and Japan have seen few high-level political contacts since the Japanese government’s “purchase” of the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012, a move that contributed to the disintegration of bilateral relations.

Abe’s visit late last year to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors WWII war criminals, erected another political obstacle to the strained relations.

The visit is the first by a serving Japanese prime minister since 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Japanese buyers eye better China-Japan trade

By Sun Xiaozheng and Wang Pan

Japanese buyers attending the ongoing 115th China Import and Export Fair are hoping trade between China and Japan can pick up despite a lackluster outlook brought by the political tensions between the two countries.

Masahito Yasuda, managing director of Japan’s Association for the Promotion of International Trade, told Xinhua at the fair that he hoped 2014 could see an end to two years of declining China-Japan trade.

“Businesses should be separate from politics,” said Yasuda, “and I think both sides need to make some efforts to help the trade pick up.”

In 2013, bilateral trade declined 5.1 percent year on year to 312.55 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 7.5 percent of China’s total trade value, according to China’s General Administration of Customs. China’s exports to Japan dipped 0.9 percent to 150.28 billion U.S. dollars while exports in the other direction declined 8.7 percent to 162.27 billion U.S. dollars.

Bilateral trade in 2012 fell 3.9 percent year on year to 329.45 billion U.S. dollars, about 8.5 percent of China’s total, according to the administration.

The declines came despite the depreciation of the Japanese yen and China’s becoming the world’s largest goods trader, mainly due to political tensions triggered by territorial disputes and the war shrine visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December.

“Because of the unclear attitude of China’s central government, a lot of trade promotion delegations from provinces of China are afraid of coming to Japan to promote their products, which I think is a pity,” Yasuda said.

Meanwhile, changes in investment structure have played a part.

“Japanese investment in China’s manufacturing industry is reducing. Companies now focus more on the market and the service industry in China,” according to Yasuda.

Japan’s direct investment in China in 2013 fell 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 7.06 billion U.S. dollars, data from Japan’s Commerce Ministry shows.

“We are still optimistic about the future,” Yasuda said, “but at the same time we have to admit that for Japanese companies doing business in China, there is always a potential risk.”

Koji Ishii, export sales manager of Japan’s Star-M, a precision tools company since 1923, is among those who are optimistic.

He said Star-M’s product sales in China have grown in the past two years. Star-M has an agent in China and Ishii expects sales of its products through the agent to grow by 80 percent.

“The reason for our growth, I think, is because we not only sell products, we sell our technologies as well. We teach our customers how to use our tools and we provide great customer service and technical consulting services,” said Ishii.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  UN celebrates 2014 Chinese Language Day

By Wang Lei

 

 

 

Guests look at traditional Chinese paintings on display during the Chinese

Language Day celebrations at the United Nations headquarters in New York,

on April 17, 2014.   Photos by Niu Xiaolei


 

The United Nations celebrated its fifth Chinese Language Day in New York on Thursday of April 17 with a series of special activities to highlight the historical and cultural importance of the Chinese language.

“The United Nations Chinese Language Day was established by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010 to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization,” said Heather Landon, Director of Documentation Division of the UN Conference Department, in a speech at a ceremony marking the Day.

Calling the linguistic study of the Chinese language “a fascinating challenge,” Landon said she is amazed that the history of the Chinese language encompasses “an impressive variety”, “which includes the many dialects and variations of the language in China and surrounding geographic areas.”

Except for her, dozens of UN staff members and diplomats from different countries gathered at the Secretariat Building in the UN headquarters to enjoy a host of events.

As part of the celebration, an exhibition of Chinese calligraphy and paintings was held at the UN headquarters in New York on April 14-17. Fo Tao, a master calligrapher from Beijing, gave a workshop here Thursday on how to learn Chinese calligraphy.

Other events included lectures, tea art and musical performance. Some UN staff members of different national backgrounds, who are also participants of a UN Chinese program, even surprised the audience by singing several well-known Chinese popular songs.

The celebration is held around the same time in April each year on Guyu, or literally meaning “Rain of Millet”, which is the sixth of the 24 solar terms created by ancient Chinese to carry out agricultural activities, to pay tribute to Cangjie — an ancient Chinese mythical figure who is credited with having invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago.

Chinese is one of the six official languages of the world body along with French, Spanish, Russian, English and Arabic. The Chinese language is now spoken by more than a billion people, which means one in seven people communicate with Chinese in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China-EU investment decline is temporary not trend: MOC

By Shi Hao

The shrinkage in investment between China and the European Union (EU) in the first quarter of 2014 is temporary rather than a trend, and the prospects for their economic cooperation are bright, said a Ministry of Commerce spokesman on Thursday.

Shen Danyang made the remarks at a news briefing, adding that China attaches great importance to China-EU economic cooperation.

In the first three months of 2014, 28 countries in the EU invested a total of 1.55 billion U.S. dollars in China, with that amount plummeting by 24.52 percent year on year. China’s investment in the EU also declined by 7 percent.

To better facilitate economic cooperation, China and the EU are negotiating on an investment agreement, and two rounds of the negotiation have been completed so far.

“China believes that the agreement will create a better investment environment for both sides and inject new vigor into mutual investment,” said Shen.

China will closely coordinate with the EU and actively deal with trade frictions, he added.

China is the EU’s second-largest trading partner and the EU is China’s top trading partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s Weibo, Leju make trading debut on U.S. market

By Cao Kai and Zheng Li

Chinese firms, Weibo Corporation and Leju Holdings Limited, made their trading debut on the U.S. market on Thursday of April 17.

Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, said Thursday that its initial public offering (IPO) of 16.8 million American depositary shares (ADS), each representing one Class A ordinary share of the company, was priced at 17 U.S. dollars per ADS.

Weibo’s shares began trading on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “WB.” It opened at 16.27 dollars a share, below its IPO price, but staged a rally later.

Goldman Sachs (Asia) and Credit Suisse Securities (USA) acted as joint book runners for the offering.

Weibo, a leading social media platform for people to create, distribute and discover Chinese-language content, has had a profound social impact in China. In March, the company had 143.9 million monthly active users and 66.6 million average daily active users, according to a statement released Thursday on the company’s trading debut.

Leju, a leading online-to-offline (O2O) real estate services provider in China, said Thursday that its initial public offering of 10 million ADSs, each representing one ordinary share of the company, was priced at 10.00 dollars per ADS.

Leju made its trading debut on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday under the ticker symbol “LEJU.” It opened at 10.80 dollars a share and extended gains later in the session.

Credit Suisse Securities (USA), J.P. Morgan Securities, China Renaissance Securities (Hong Kong), Macquarie Capital (USA) and China Merchants Securities (HK) acted as joint book runners for the offering.

Leju’s online platform includes websites covering more than 250 cities as well as mobile applications. The firm also operates the real estate and home furnishing websites of leading internet companies such as SINA Corporation and Baidu Inc., and maintains a strategic partnership with Tencent Holdings Limited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s first Sino-foreign University marks 10th anniversary

By Cao Kai and Zheng Li

 

Two students walk on the campus of the University of Nottingham-Ningbo located

in the higher education park of Ningbo, east China’s Zhejiang Province, on February 25,

2011.   Photo by Huang Zongzhi

 

 

A researcher makes an experiment at the University of Nottingham-Ningbo located in the

higher education park of Ningbo on February 24, 2011.   Photo by Huang Zongzhi

 

 

The British teacher Eliot Wright (center) interacts with students at the University of

Nottingham-Ningbo located in the higher education park of Ningbo on February 24,

2011. The University of Nottingham-Ningbo is the first Sino-foreign university in China

with approval from China’s Ministry of Education.    Photo by Huang Zongzhi

 

 

 

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), the country’s first Sino-foreign university, marked its 10th anniversary on Thursday of April 17 in Beijing.

UNNC was China’s first joint Sino-foreign University, established in 2004 by a partnership between Zhejiang Wanli Education Group and the University of Nottingham after China’s State Council passed a regulation in 2003 on Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools.

The UNNC student community has grown from just 254 undergraduates in 2004 to over 6,000 in 2014, including undergraduates, postgraduates and PhD students, said Yang Fujia, UNNC President and former Chancellor of the University of Nottingham between 2001 and 2012.

Yang was the first Chinese person to hold the post of chancellor in a leading UK university.

The UNNC is determined to double the percentage of postgraduates and overseas students from the current 10 percent each to 20 percent for each group in 2020, said Yang, also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

David Greenaway, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, said UNNC is committed to serving the Ningbo community and contributing to China’s economic and social development.

The Ningbo Nottingham International Academy for Marine Economy and Technology, officially launched on Monday, will build on Ningbo’s strong reputation for marine-related activities and support the city’s marine economy, he said.

UNNC began construction of its campus on April 15, 2004 in Ningbo City in east China’s Zhejiang Province. It began recruiting students in September 2004. It currently has 5,616 undergraduates, 549 postgraduates and 188 PhD students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Taiwan will not reopen service pact talks

By Yu Junjie and Fu Shuangqi

Taiwan’s mainland affairs office has said it will not renegotiate its signed service trade pact with the mainland, despite Taiwanese students’ protests on the matter.

A statement issued by the office on Wednesday evening of April 16 added its weight to a mainland spokeswoman’s similar remarks earlier that day.

Hundreds of students stormed into Taiwan’s legislative chamber on March 18 in protest at what they see as “undemocratic” tactics used by the ruling Kuomintang to speed up the ratification of the pact.

Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a press conference that the service trade pact is a signed agreement and there is no precedent for renegotiating a signed pact.

The authority of agreements reached by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation must be maintained, she said.

Responding to a question on attempts at supervising cross-Strait agreements, Fan said “Taiwan independence” forces are using supervision as a disguise and attempting to legalize the “one country on each side” idea in order to meet their goal of hampering cross-Strait negotiation and the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.

However, the statement from Taiwan’s mainland affairs office said it fully respects the opposition’s call for vetting of the service trade pact by the legislative body and noted that a draft oversight regulation concerning the signing of cross-Strait agreements has been submitted to the legislative body.

In a bid to put the service trade pact into effect as early as possible, the statement suggested that the legislative body deliberate on the draft oversight rules and the service pact at the same time.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou also said on Wednesday that he believed the service pact can stand up to future tests and would benefit Taiwan.

Signed by the two sides in June 2013, the service trade pact aims to further normalize and liberalize service trade between the mainland and Taiwan, as well as open up mutual markets in the service sector

Under the agreement, the mainland will open 80 service sectors to Taiwan, while Taiwan will open 64 sectors to the mainland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Mainland hopes for implementation of cross-Strait service trade pact

By Shi Hao

A Chinese mainland official on Thursday of April 17 expressed hope that the cross-Strait service trade pact will come into effect at an early date so that it can benefit people on both sides.

Ministry of Commerce (MOC) spokesman Shen Danyang told a news briefing that the pact is beneficial to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

“We should respect the authority of the pact agreed on by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF),” said Shen.

Signed in June last year as a follow-up to the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the service trade pact aims to open up 80 of the mainland’s service sectors to Taiwan and 64 of Taiwan’s sectors to the mainland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s next 5-year plan eyes deepening reforms

By Jiang Xufeng

China’s top economic planning body on Thursday of April 17 said that it has started to formulate the 13th Five-Year Plan covering 2016 to 2020, with deepening reforms and shifting the country’s economic growth model at the forefront.

“China’s development has entered a new phase and is facing both unprecedented opportunities as well as risks and challenges,” said Xu Shaoshi, head of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), on Thursday at a work conference, marking the start of the drafting of the plan.

The global economic growth patten, division of labor in different industries internationally, global investment and trade rules, and geopolitical environment are undergoing fundamental shifts, Xu said at the conference attended by officials from other departments of the State Council, China’s cabinet, and local provinces.

In the 13th Five-Year Plan period, China must achieve the lofty goal of building a moderately prosperous society and substantial progress of deepening its reform in a comprehensive manner and shifting its economic development model, said Xu.

Drafting a long-term development plan is an important tool to improve the government’s macro-management and governance capabilities. The plan should advance with the times and reflect people’s wishes, Xu added.

Xu did not specify when the draft of the plan will be completed.

China’s five-year plan sets out a broad economic and social policy framework for the country, and needs to be approved by the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature. The country’s 12th Five-Year Plan period covers 2011 to 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China issues first assessment on space activities

By Han Qiao and Wang Min

A leading space research group in China released the country’s first assessment of the current situation and future trends of international space activities on Thursday of April 17.

The report was compiled by the research group of the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Launch Vehicle Technology.

The report showed that space activities have flourished in recent years. Big space powers led in terms of satellite launch attempts and in-orbit assets.

Modern facilities and equipment used in space activities are mostly owned by leading space powers.

So far, 12 countries have gained the ability to launch satellites independently, said the report.

Of the 159 launches that took place between 2012 and 2013, 86.8 percent were conducted by 4 leading powers, including Russia, the United States, China and the European Union.

There were an estimated 1,084 satellites in orbit by August 2013, according to a calculation by the research group based on figures from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A total of 461 satellites are independently owned by the United States. Russia had 111 and the European Union possessed 110.

The three powers had 63 percent of global space assets, said the report.

Li Hongbo, a member of the research group and an expert with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), warned of a trend toward using space for military purposes that has emerged in recent years.

“Current international laws and regulations have been ineffective to contain it,” said Li.

The research group called for peaceful exploration and utilization of outer space.

The research group worked under CALT, which is part of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Frugality campaign sparks change in high-end catering

By Yuan Yue, Sun Liangqua, Lü Xiaoyu and Liang Saiyu

Li Hongjin, manager of an upscale restaurant in north China’s Shanxi Province, has grown frustrated over business in the last year.

“We used to have VIP tables, now we have to give them up,” said Li, manager of Juguangju Hotel. “We must turn to the ordinary when the business can barely survive.”

The change in business coincided with the intensified anti-corruption campaign by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Li’s hotel is located in Pingyao County in central Shanxi, renowned for its well-preserved ancient city. The hotel has been designated for official receptions by the government since 2008.

His business was greatly impacted last year, spooked by a 60 percent decrease nationally in official receptions compared with the previous year.

Luxury catering services throughout Shanxi are facing a chill. Overall turnover in the industry fell 20 percent compared with 2012, according to the provincial statistics bureau.

According to a survey from China Cuisine Association (CCA), revenue of catering services in China only achieved 9 percent year-on-year growth in 2013, a 21-year low. The situation for high-end restaurants is especially bleak.

The catering industry in China has developed steadily since 1978, when China embraced economic reform, and has become a crucial component of the country’s service industry.

However, the CCA survey reveals deep changes are on the horizon in the Chinese catering industry, both in market structure and business model.

“The business will face some huge reshuffling in 2014,” predicted Tu Jianqiu, executive president of the catering business association in Hengyang City in central China’s Hunan Province.

Some high-end restaurants have even gone out of business.

“Last year, over 40 percent of luxury hotels and clubs in China’s first-tier cities were closed,” said Tu.

“As China clamps down on government-funded receptions, heavy losses have been inflicted on lavish catering services,” said Feng Enyuan, CCA’s vice chairman.

As a result, other high-end restaurants in the country have struggled to shift their business patterns. Some have turned to the general public for profits. Home-style cooking, for which profits are slimmer, is now taking the place of haute cuisine. The Youth Restaurant in downtown Taiyuan, capital city of Shanxi, for instance, is selling dishes at big discounts to meet diner demand.

High-end restaurants have slowed down their expansion, while others have shut down branches. Companies have started alliances and associations to cooperate in investment, promotion and business operation.

“The campaign hurt high-end restaurants, but the reshuffle is necessary,” said Yan Kaixian, chairman of Cuisine Association in Taiyuan. Luxury catering services are not the way to go, she said, as they have led to a huge waste of public resources.

Depending on luxury receptions from the government is not sustainable, the expert noted, and the industry’s growth should count on obeying the rules of the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  FDI inflow falls as economy cools

By Cheng Jing, Wei Hua, Zhang Zhongkai and Lei Min

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Chinese mainland edged down 1.47 percent in March, the first drop in over a year, reflecting challenges for overseas investors in an increasingly sophisticated environment.

China drew 12.24 billion U.S. dollars in FDI last month, and the volume for the first quarter of 2014 came in at 31.55 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 5.5 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said on Thursday of April 17.

MOC spokesman Shen Danyang said the March drop was normal, attributing the fluctuation to changes in individual investment projects and macro economic policies such as the recent yuan volatility.

“The fluctuation won’t affect the steady growth of foreign investments for the whole year,” while China will remain a very important investment destination for global investors, Shen said.

Around 55.13 percent of the FDI went into the country’s service sector, and that to the manufacturing sector dropped 11.7 percent to 11.64 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 36.88 percent of the total.

In the first quarter, FDI from major Asian economies saw steady growth, including a 7.84-percent rise from ASEAN nations and a 162.13-percent surge from the Republic of Korea.

However, investment from Japan shed 47.18 percent, while that form the United States and the European Union fell 1.91 percent and 24.52 percent, respectively.

China’s outbound direct investment by non-financial firms dropped 16.5 percent to 19.9 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter, the ministry said.

The data came as foreign investors are facing an increasingly tricky landscape in China, with the country’s growth slowing and production costs rising because of a shrinking labor force.

Official data showed on Wednesday that China’s growth slowed to 7.4 percent in the first three months, the lowest pace since the third quarter of 2012.

Beneath the headline number are China’s painful efforts to gradually shift away from export-driven growth, which brought pressure to bear on foreign manufacturing businesses that once rode on China’s cheap labor and land.

“China’s trade and foreign investment data showed China’s economy is undergoing a transformation as the era characterized by a lack of foreign exchange, capital and commodities is over,” said Zhang Yansheng, secretary-general of the academic committee at the National Development and Reform Commission.

Both foreign and domestic investors need to adapt to the changes, Zhang noted, adding foreign capital may need at least five years to readjust.

“But those who focus on the real economy will remain bullish on the Chinese market in the long term,” he said.

Along with China’s economic restructuring, its demographic change is also challenging businesses in China.

The country’s shrinking working age group is pushing up production costs and young Chinese, demanding better pay, are fuelling frequent strikes at factories, including foreign ones. This dynamic has made investment in China less effortless than before.

In a latest case, hundreds of workers at a manufacturing subsidiary of IBM in south China’s Guangdong Province last month protested against a compensation package which they claim is unsatisfactory and determined without negotiation.

The protest, which lasted for over a week, was one of a string of such strikes at foreign factories.

Jiang Yuechun, an analyst with the China Institute of International Studies, said the rising labor costs and economic restructuring may lead to the exit of some foreign capital that relied heavily on the cheap labor and raw materials, but those that eyed high-end products and industries will remain competitive.

In the future, China will see more market-driven foreign capital rather than cost-driven businesses, Jiang said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Economic slowdown urges enterprise innovation

By Li Laifang and Zhang Zhanpeng

Two highly paid doctoral researchers recruited by a small private company is something of a rarity in China. But for its boss Wu Renshan, the investment is paying off.

“The market presses small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) like us to upgrade our technologies,” said Wu, board chairman of Jiangsu Shenxi Construction Machinery Co., Ltd, in east China’s Jiangsu Province.

Wu recruited the two researchers in 2009 to improve its technologies in the manufacturing of hanging platforms, often used for cleaning windows of high-rise buildings. In 2013, the company poured 4 million yuan (650,000 U.S. dollars), or 15 percent of its profit that year, in technological innovation.

“In China, there are too many enterprises that are the same size as mine. Some have failed, particularly in the past two years,” said Wu. “Technology is the kingcraft (for survival).”

China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in the first quarter this year, the lowest quarterly rise since the third quarter of 2012. The target is about 7.5 percent this year, the lowest since 1999.

The slowdown has meant SMEs like Wu’s have to innovate.

Gao Jianfei, president of Wuxi Sunda Conveyer & Painting Equipment Co., Ltd., said, “Under current circumstances, small companies need to innovate to vie for a share of the market.”

Wuxi Sunda’s revenue hit 150 million yuan last year, slightly higher than the previous year. In 2011, the company set up a laboratory and recruited a team of 16 researchers to ensure technical support for its business expansion in cooperation with Tsinghua University in Beijing.

With traditional manufacturing industries such as textile and clothing and machinery, foreign trade is important to Jiangsu. Trade volume was 550.8 billion U.S. dollars last year, or 13.2 percent of the country’s total.

Due to industrial upgrading, Chinese enterprises are engaging in more value-added business, shifting from selling cheap goods to developing high-end products.

CSR Corporation, China’s leading railway car manufacturer, signed an export contract worth 2 billion U.S. dollars with South Africa in March. The deal is the biggest rail transport equipment export order for China.

CSR established a central research institute last year to provide intellectual support for “China intelligent-making”. It will serve as an innovative engine, said Wang Jun, CSR vice president.

“To have more say in international trade, quality is more important than quantity,” said Zhu Naixin, a researcher with Jiangsu Academy of Social Sciences.

Medium and low-end manufacturing is important for providing jobs, but more efforts should be made to expand high-end sectors, he said.

“We look forward to the implementation of reforms in science and technology, finance and taxation systems, so that we can go in this direction,” said Gao Jianfei.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s high-end catering industry sees negative growth

By Cheng Lu, Pan Dexin and Qi Jian

China’s high-end catering and food industries were hit hard in 2013 amid the country’s anti-corruption and austerity campaigns, statistics showed.

Revenue of the high-end catering sector reached 818.1 billion yuan (about 131.6 billion U.S. dollars), down 1.8 percent year on year, marking the first negative growth since China began to collect such data in 1991.

Wang Yao, director of the All-China Commercial Information Center, said at a press conference on Wednesday of April 16 that the growth rate was down 14.7 percentage points last year from 2012.

High-end catering businesses are defined by the National Bureau of Statistics as those with annual sales exceeding 2 million yuan.

Revenue of dining businesses with annual sales less than 2 million yuan increased by 15 percent last year compared with that in 2012.

Meanwhile, sales of luxury liquor and high-end health care products, also declined sharply last year, Wang said.

Since Xi Jinping took the helm of the CPC in November 2012, the Party has announced a series of detailed regulations to uproot bureaucratic and extravagant work styles among government workers, such as requiring officials to travel with smaller entourages, simplifying receptions and practising frugality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s “speculation city” returns to real economy

By Wang Jian, Zhang Heping, Xie Yunting and Cheng Yunjie

The city of Wenzhou, a weather vane of China’s private economy, is regaining its foothold after being hit hard by a credit crunch, local entrepreneurs and analysts say.

With its gross domestic product expanding by 7.7 percent last year, about one percentage point higher than in the previous year, to 400 billion yuan (64.32 billion U. S. dollars) for the first time, the east China city saw its economy bottom out at the end of last year.

Latest figures from the Wenzhou statistics bureau showed that new high-tech industry has played a stronger role in the expansion of the local economy, with its aggregate output value reaching 31.2 billion yuan in the first quarter, up 6.2 percent from the same period last year.

The city has yet to release its first-quarter GDP growth figure.

When a credit crisis triggered by the massive default of private loans hit the city in 2011, some 110 billion yuan in private capital sought quick profits through speculation and the underground financial market, primarily in real estate.

Lasting capital outflow from the real economy, which involves the actual production of goods and services, has harmed local entrepreneurs.

What’s worse, when the central government stepped in to cool soaring property prices by imposing a series of measures, such as restrictions on purchases and higher down payment requirements, Wenzhou investors were hit hard as the number of buyers plummeted.

To get rid of its shameful title as the “speculation city,” the city government has created a strategy to revitalize the city through industrial production.

Under a development blueprint released in March, the city plans to achieve 300 billion yuan in fixed asset investment on projects, with planned investment of five million yuan this year, compared to 261.81 billion yuan in 2013.

Electric power, footwear, clothing, motorcycles and pump valve manufacturing will be the city’s pillar industries, while investment in another ten emerging industries, such as the Internet, tourism, modern logistics, culture, lasers and photoelectricity, rail transit, general aviation, new materials and healthcare are encouraged.

The city government also projected a 30 percent year-on-year increase in investment for technical innovation, and 104 new small enterprise parks will be established to inspire entrepreneurship.

It also hopes to attract 100 more new high-tech companies, 500 technology-intensive medium-sized enterprises and 25 research and development centers.

In early March, the State Council approved for Wenzhou to further develop its coastline resources and turn the Wenzhou Port into a pivotal port for the export-oriented economy.

Zhu Like, general manager of Zhejiang Yiming food company, said businessmen in Wenzhou are famous for their sharp business sense and strong willpower.

“As soon as these people have made up their minds to return to the real economy, the city will be on a solid path to an economic recovery,” he said.

Zhou Dewen, Chairman of the Wenzhou SME Development Association, said that since the government and business leaders have recognized the economic problems and decided to revive the real economy, Wenzhou will show its economic muscle again in the future.

Taking Wenzhou as “a miniature of the Chinese economy as a whole,” he said the Chinese economy is quite resilient, given the Chinese people’s unabated enthusiasm for reforms.

If Wenzhou had not been hit by the credit crunch, more private capital would favor speculation rather than the development of the real economy. In that case, the Chinese economy would have faced a real crisis, he added.

Statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Wednesday showed that China’s economy grew 7.4 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, suggesting economic growth in the country was generally stable.

Liu Gang, professor at Nankai University in Tianjin Municipality, said China must continue to promote reform and adjust the financial capital distribution in accordance with economic restructuring and industrial upgrading.

The real economy should remain as the backbone of China’s economy, and it should be supported by a compatible financial system and embark on a path of industrial upgrading fueled by innovation, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  China’s consumption to continue booming: MOC

By Zhu Shaobin

A Ministry of Commerce spokesman has predicted that multiple factors will drive China’s consumption growth this year, after new data showed surging retail sales in the country.

People’s rising income coupled with the new consumption power emerging amid China’s urbanization and industrialization processes will both support consumption growth, Shen Danyang said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday of April 17.

Government data released on Wednesday showed that the average per capita disposable income of both urban and rural residents grew 8.6 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014.

Meanwhile, rising consumption of healthcare, travel, entertainment and information products as well as booming online shopping will further the trend, Shen said.

“We are basically optimistic in our view of the overall consumption market for this year,” the spokesman said.

His remarks came after official data showed on Wednesday that the country’s retail sales grew 12 percent year on year to 6.21 trillion yuan (1.01 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter.

Shen said that the growth was boosted by the rapid expansion of online shopping, robust consumption in the catering sector, as well as purchases of electronic gadgets and travel packages.

The government data showed retail sales in rural areas rose 12.8 percent in the first quarter from the same period last year. Retail sales in urban areas climbed 11.8 percent in the same period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Beijing holds public hearing on water pricing

By Han Xiaojing and Guan Guifeng

A public meeting was held on Thursday of April 17 to discuss changes to Beijing’s multi-tier pricing mechanism for water, with agreement that prices will rise.

Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform published two plans on April 2. Both plans have three tiers.

According to the first plan, the price of water at the lowest tier will rise from 4 yuan per cubic meter to 4.95 yuan per cubic meter for a household with an annual water consumption less than 145 cubic meters, which covers 85 percent of households.

Households with an annual water consumption in the range of 146-260 cubic meters will be charged 7 yuan per cubic meter.

According to the second plan, the lowest tier water price will be 5 yuan per cubic meter for households with an annual water consumption less than 180 cubic meters, which covers 90 percent of households. Households with an annual water consumption in the range of 180-260 will be charged 7 yuan per cubic meter.

According to both plans, the water price for annual consumption beyond 260 cubic meters will jump to 9 yuan/cubic meter.

Twenty-five local legislators, political advisors, consumers and scholars attended the public hearing.

Seventeen of them voted for the second plan. Six of them agreed to the first plan, and another two proposed different plans.

Shi Shuying, one of the representatives from Fangshan district, said increasing the price of water aims to raise people’s awareness about conserving water. She suggested the government fix the city’s old pipelines to prevent leakages.

Beijing has been facing water shortages for a number of decades. The city has only 100 cubic meters of water available per person locally, or one-tenth of the United Nations’ “danger threshold”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  New snake species found at Mt. Qomolangma

By Yi Ling, Liu Hongming and Wang Jun

Chinese scientists have discovered a new species of brownish pit viper in the largest scientific study since the 1970s on wildlife at Mount Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest.

A genetic analysis revealed Protobothrops himalayanus, which was first spotted at Jilong Valley in southern Tibet Autonomous Region in 2012, to be a new snake species, Hu Huijian, co-chief of the research team, told Xinhua on Thursday of April 17.

The new species was named in honor of its home, the Himalayas, said Hu, a researcher of the South China Institute of Endangered Animals.

Featuring a round head and copper-colored eyes, the adult Protobothrops himalayanus is about 1.5 meters in length. Mostly living on the south flank of the Himalayas, the animal is fierce and aggressive.

“Actually, local people called it ‘the holy dragon of the Himalayas’ and they always show great awe toward the creatures, which are well protected,” he said.

The discovery, published in “Asian Herpetological Research,” an international authoritative academic journal, is more evidence of Tibet’s biodiversity, he said.

Currently, there are 12 valid species in the genus Protobothrops, of which seven are known to inhabit China and many of them prefer mountain areas at high elevations.

Since the expedition started on October 2010, the research team has traveled an area of 32,000 sq km and has so far discovered and identified 499 species of vertebrates, including eight species of fish, according to the scientist.

“Twenty of them are under top-level state protection, nine of which are on the ‘red list’ of endangered species by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature,” said Hu.

Previous records showed that more than 360 species of vertebrates were found in the region.

The new discoveries have laid a solid foundation for wildlife study and protection at Mount Qomolangma, which has one of the world’s most-watched and vulnerable ecosystems, said Cao Tiantang, head of the Mt. Qomolangma nature reserve, which organized the research.

“It’s such a happy surprise to see not only those species, but also a complete food chain well protected in the nature reserve,” said Hu.

Another inspiring discovery is the brown-fronted woodpecker, which was previously seen in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, but has only recently been observed in China.

The bird was discovered in the Jilong Valley in May 2012.

“Mount Qomolangma is a big treasure for science,” said Hu.

“As the research continues, we believe there are surprises ahead. Many places in the nature reserve were out of reach for scientists before because of adverse weather and geographical conditions,” he said.

China has previously organized two scientific studies on wildlife at Mount Qomolangma, one in 1975 and another from 1991 to 1993.

The Qomolangma nature reserve, created in 1988, was recognized in 1999 by the United Nations as one of the world’s most successful examples of sustainable development.

Covering 34,000 sq km, the reserve sits at an average altitude of 4,200 meters and is home to five of the world’s 14 tallest peaks.

The reserve has spent one million yuan (162,338 U.S. dollars) on technology to stop poaching, including installing cameras, said Cao.

Patrols and law enforcement will also be stepped up to protect wild animals such as the snow leopard, Tibetan wild ass and long-tailed monkey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Shanghai Disney Resort in student recruitment drive

By Fang Ning and Xu Xiaoqing

Shanghai Disney Resort will launch a recruitment drive aiming to offer jobs to several thousand Chinese college graduates next year, it announced on Thursday of April 17.

The company will run roadshows in the second half of the year at universities and colleges in Shanghai Municipality as well as Zhejiang, Anhui and Henan provinces.

Jobs on offer will include positions in the resort’s food and beverage, merchandise, park and hotel operations.

“In the coming two years, the development of Shanghai Disney Resort will rapidly generate many great employment opportunities for Chinese talent at all levels,” said Mike Crawford, general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort.

The Shanghai Disney Resort management company and its two owner companies have recruited 700 employees in the preparation and development phases of the planned Disney resort, which is slated to open in Pudong District of Shanghai in late 2015.

The first Disney resort in China’s mainland, it will boast two theme hotels, a large retail, dining and entertainment venue and an array of recreation facilities, and has been designed to incorporate Chinese design elements as well as Disneyland traditions.

The resort is a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company and the Shanghai Shendi Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Food additive scandal scares public yet again

By Zhong Qun and Wu Xiaokang

Food safety is raising eyebrows among the Chinese public once again, after a family-run workshop in east China was exposed to be selling duck blood made with banned additives.

The situation came to the fore when the People’s Daily reported on the case on Tuesday of April 15. The owners of the mom and pop store in Huai’an City, Jiangsu Province, were found to have added dyeing and printing auxiliaries to the duck blood they sell to make it appear more appealing, the newspaper said on its official account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The couple who own the shop bought chicken blood instead of duck blood at extremely cheap prices, added inedible dyeing and printing agents to make the blood solid, before selling the products to local markets.

Duck blood is a delicacy in China. The small shop made about 1,000 kg of such “duck blood,” according to the People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

The post, which fueled much public unease, has been forwarded more than 5,000 times as of Thursday morning. In a display of their anger, Chinese netizens wrote a flurry of scathing comments about loose government supervision and a dearth of conscience among food manufacturers.

“If people’s hearts have become fake, what genuine food can we expect in the market anyway?” wrote a Weibo user with the screen name “Danzengpingcuodedan,” in despair of food quality in China.

Another netizen screen-named “Kuailelaoxiaolin” said that authorities should not shirk their responsibilities in the face of such scandals.

China’s food safety has been draped in doubts after a slew of high-profile food scandals shook the confidence of consumers, particularly the one in 2008 when melamine-tainted baby formula caused the deaths of at least six infants and made 300,000 ill.

To address widespread concern, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in March that the government will strictly enforce food laws and regulations, pledging the most stringent supervision and toughest punishment for unscrupulous producers and negligent officials.

Meanwhile, China’s food watchdogs have issued innumerable policies to try to stamp out below-standard food.

According to draft amendments to the Food Safety Law released in late October, China will triple the fines for severe food safety violations, while people jailed for such crimes will be banned forever from the food industry.

But illegal manufacturers continue to stick their necks out to stealthily make unqualified food and rake in more profits.

Earlier this month, a couple in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were detained by police on suspicion of adding alum, a banned additive, to the salted food they sell.

One of the suspects surnamed Liang said that they jumped on the bandwagon only because “others were doing it,” according to local police.

Luo Guoan, a researcher with the sociology department of the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, attributed these food scandals to factors including loose supervision, improper management, imperfect laws and regulations, and manufacturers’ eroding credibility.

“There is an urgent need to overhaul the whole food industry,” Luo said.

One of the major loopholes in the supervision chain is a lack of coordination, he said, pointing out that management of the industry involves many departments, resulting in poor efficiency.

According to Luo, the government needs to ramp up people’s awareness of food safety to help crack unqualified edibles in the market.

The researcher said that China should rectify the problem by improving the Food Safety Law, including extending the range of supervision and meting out stiffer penalties to those who violate the law.

“A credibility system should be put in place to regulate the behavior of food makers,” he added.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>>  Xinjiang rumormonger detained after attacker’s death

By Lü Qiuping

Police in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have detained a man for spreading rumors that a motorcyclist was shot dead by police for running a red light, a local news website said on Thursday of April 17.

The man, a resident of the region’s capital Urumqi, received civil detention of 15 days on Wednesday after he forwarded an untrue rumor that was created abroad, said Tianshan.com, quoting public security bureaus of Urumqi and Aksu Prefecture.

At 11:40 p.m. on Saturday, a young man named Abdubasit Ablimit from Yurqi Township, Kalpin County of Aksu, rode a motorcycle and attacked a check point twice, attempting to assault police at the check point and grab their arms. Despite firing a warning shot, police failed to stop him and had to shoot him. The motorcyclist was then rushed to the hospital and died despite medical efforts the next morning, the website said.

Following the attack, rumormongers at home and abroad viciously distorted the facts, using the case to confuse the public, which led to the detention of the Urumqi resident, police were quoted as saying, without disclosing his name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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